One of the first things people often ask Hilda Sandoval when they find out that she is a farmer is why she, as a woman with a college degree, would choose to do such a difficult and physically demanding job. Her answer is always the same: “Because I like it.”
Of course, like the roots of her own produce, Hilda’s story goes deeper than that. On her table at the Bellingham
Farmers Market, she makes sure to showcase vegetables that remind her of home. A native of Hidalgo Province, Mexico, she spent weekdays at school in Mexico City and weekends working with her parents in the countryside on
their family farm, growing vegetables to sell at the markets there. Today, she enjoys sharing her own homegrown
staples such as tomatillos, hot peppers, and garlic as well as the fresh beans and squashes that form the basis of
traditional Mexican cuisine.
Human connectedness is part and parcel of everything Hilda does, and this ethos can be traced back to her admiration for her own parents,
who raised eleven children (Hilda is number eight), making sure that each of them got a good education and solid start on life. Eventually, the Sandoval family were able to open a restaurant specializing in lamb barbacoa using
only fresh ingredients from their local farms. Once Hilda graduated with a degree in business administration, she
returned to run the family restaurant until love and marriage carried her to her new home in the Pacific Northwest.
Once she arrived here, Hilda was impressed by the area’s natural beauty, but especially loved how supportive the
locals were of farmers who produce, in her words, “healthy and healing organic foods.” Missing her connection to the land, she began to work for a local farm before eventually taking the leap to rent some land and start a business of her own.
Apart from her radiant energy and quick smile, one thing I noticed about Hilda is that when she talked about the people on her farm, she never said that they worked for her, only with her. And she never referred to the (mostly) women who help her as workers, but as farmers.
“They are doing farming and so they are farmers,” she says. “They know how to grow all the vegetables and understand everything about farming, so they are farmers– not just interchangeable sets of hands.”
As for the practice of farming itself, Hilda sees it as a wholeheartedly community-driven effort:
“You cannot do it by yourself. When I was working in fields, I could see that especially the Hispanic women are hard workers, but many are not able to fully live because of the heavy burden of both work and family. So I want to be a role model to show that they can start their own businesses, too, and go to the market and participate. Always, I believe when you share a positive experience, if it has an impact, it creates a ripple that grows. I want to show people that this can be done.”
You can find Hilda on Instagram @hildas_farming or at the Bellingham Farmers Market.
7626 Nooksack Rd, Everson